Aside from the talent and history between the schools, Dudley's gym is the perfect shoebox arena. Crammed into the brick facade were 2,000 spectators and they expected a show. In last year's game, Terrell dropped 41 points.
Before the first point was scored, sophomore P.J. Hairston's mother demonstrated the family's other talent besides basketball. Wendy Poteat belted out a strong rendition of the national anthem and then turned it over to a public address announcer that whipped up nicknames, dropped nuggets of information and set the tone for the evening festivities.
For somebody who sees a ton of games, this one was circled on the calendar months ago. It's too neat of a rivalry game to miss out on.
Saturday night, Dudley looked like the state title contender its been labeled to be since practice began three months ago. The Panthers downed Cummings 94-71.
A 12-point game at the half, the most uneasy moment of the evening occurred with two minutes left in the first half. Hairston took an inadvertent knee to the back of the head from Terrell and hit the ground. After a minute he got up, stumbled and fell back down. Hairston was carried off the court. Word circulated that he would be OK but as he returned to the bench prior to the conclusion of the first half, you could tell his eggs were a bit scrambled.
Hairston emerged ready to go in the second half but not before the game officials had Dudley's team doctor sign a release. With Hairston on the court, Dudley stretched third quarter lead to 15. The sophomore shooting guard is in line to begin earning plenty of scholarship offers. In fact, Wake Forest assistant Pat Kelsey was on hand and he wasn't alone. Kelsey's expecting wife and youngest daughter sat midcourt.
Hairston displayed his trademark range and rattled home 20 points on 3-for-7 from behind the arc. He also had seven boards and like Wyatt, was perfect from the line. In addition to Hairston's wing points, freshman Reggie Dillard was on the prowl. Dillard chipped in with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
Dudley boosts quite the crew and despite Hairston's absence in the first half, was deep enough to keep the machine running smoothly. Cummings wasn't as fortunate. Robinson's top gun is Terrell and while he's more than capable of keeping Cummings in most games, there weren't enough bullets against this powerhouse.
Terrell finally holstered the pistol with 27 points on 10-for-24 from the field. The most impressive part of his evening was his mastering of a lost art. Terrell's mid-range game was crisp. We attributed five mid-range pulls off the dribble, a move that will translate well to the college game. Known for his prowess behind the arc, his damage a few steps inside the line signifies a strong element of his game.
In between Wyatt's dimes, Terrell's high-arching pull-ups and Hairston's rainbow 3s, lay Dudley's most effective weapon: Brandon Pennix. The 6-foot-5 senior power forward made all but two of his 13 shots and dominated inside to the tune of 27 points and 11 rebounds. "The Beast" was at his best. At the proper level, Pennix is a Division I player, especially if the motor runs at the level it did Saturday night.
Forget the score. Individually, the key guys were on top of their games. Hairston rested up on Sunday and he's going to be fine.
Already looking forward to the 2010 game!